Thursday, June 23, 2011


The kitchen was abuzz with activity. I looked on with amazement at the number of things ma was making for me. The puran polis were all done and packed into resealable bags. The cook was frying the chaklis while the maid was rolling the laddoos, even as ma fired instructions to both of them.

Papa kept coming into the kitchen every now and then, sometimes tasting the laddoos or nibbling on the chaklis. “Don’t we have any fruits? Where are the grapes?” he enquired. “Can’t you see the apples and bananas on the table? Look in the fridge, you’ll find some grapes, strawberries and oranges” ma replied sounding very irritated. “Take what you want and sit outside for some time; don’t keep coming in and out of the kitchen so often, it disturbs me no end.”

They seem to be arguing all the time, I thought to myself sadly. They used to be such a gentle couple, quite unlike the cantankerous pair I had seen over the last fortnight. I was really worried for them.

“Your papa,” ma whispered to me, “is losing it. Always interfering….just doesn’t what to do with himself. I just don’t know how to cope with him anymore!”

My heart went out to Papa. Recently retired, he wasn’t used to having time on his hands. He didn’t like watching T.V. and was never into reading. He tried his hand at gardening, but there wasn’t much he could do in the tiny one bedroom apartment with an almost non-existent balcony. So he would just potter around the house to while away the hours.

Ma turned her attention to the grains she planned to roast for making the thalipeeth bhajani. The sheer volume of bhajani that she was planning to pack horrified me. “Are you kidding ma? That bhajani will take up my entire baggage allowance! And can you just stop all this cooking? I don’t want you to tire yourself out.”

“Haven’t I told you so often, let me make all these things while I am physically able to. You have come home after 3 years, god knows when you will come again. Let me pamper you,” she smiled lovingly.
“Listen ma…..” but she cut off my protests with a curt “stop nagging me, go join your father outside.”

So I went and sat with papa who was solving a crossword puzzle, even as he was nibbling on some grapes. “Come beti, sit. Want a fruit? An orange? I’ll peel it for you.” He hadn’t forgotten that I hated peeling oranges.

“No, I’ll peel them myself,” I smiled. He went back to his crossword and as I watched him in amazement as he went from one clue to the next. He looked much healthier and more relaxed since his retirement but in the corners of his eyes, I could detect that vacant look of complete boredom and it troubled me a lot. Poor papa, he really needed to find himself something that would make him happy. I wished there was something I could do for him, but was at a complete loss of ideas.

‘memories preserved, not pickled in jars but frozen forever’, now what kind of a clue is that?” he wondered aloud.

“Ummm..How about ‘photograph’?” I suggested

“8 letters….snapshot.”

“Hey papa, where are the albums? I want to see the old pictures.” But I knew where they would be, they had always been in the shelf in the showcase and I shot out of my chair and grabbed a few.

The albums were neatly labeled according to month, year and occasion – their marriage, their honeymoon, some vacations they had taken, my birth and so forth. Papa was a consummate photographer and for the first time, I realized how good he was. I never seemed to stand still in any pictures, but ma must have loved being his subject. The last of the albums had mostly blurry pictures – no, not taken by him but by a 14 year old me. But after my 15th year, there were no more pictures. I had taken the camera for a school picnic and dropped it, damaging it completely. The lie was easier, so I came back home and claimed that the camera was misplaced, possibly stolen by someone. Papa never replaced that camera, I had been too guilty to ask him to and that was the end of his hobby.

Feeling completely suffocated by the weight of my lie, I decided to step out for a bit. I must have gone out for a couple of hours and when I came back, ma was still in the kitchen, transferring some pickles into smaller bottles and papa was now attacking a Sudoku puzzle.

“Papa…for you,” I said, giving him the DSLR that I had purchased when I went out. “And maybe it is time for me to confess that your old camera wasn’t stolen. I….uh….I dropped it and it….it….broke.”

He nodded. “I’ve always suspected it. That is why this camera now, huh?” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

In no time, he had figured the camera out and was clicking away endlessly. Pictures of me, our apartment, his plants, of the streets that ran around our apartment, of the skyline…

“Click ma’s pictures,” I said.

“You crazy? She’ll bite my head off if I go in there to take pictures,” he laughed. “This fruit bowl here will make for a better subject!”

Ma, in the meantime, had finished her marathon cooking session and walked out at exactly the moment that papa clicked the strawberries.

“Look at him, taking pictures of everything in this house except mine.”

He winked at me and turned to pacify ma by taking her pictures. He said something, she laughed and after a long time, they looked like the couple they used to be.

It didn’t matter that I didn’t have the camera in my hand to capture that moment - I knew it was an image that would live forever in my heart.

So this is my (as always?) late entry to our food fiction event, Of Chalks and Chopsticks that Sra revived last month. This time, there was a cue - in the form of a photo - of a man taking a picture of a bowl of strawberries.

Bongmom is hosting Of Chalks and Chopsticks for July. Head on over to her blog to know more.

Thalipeeth is very popular snack all over Maharashtra . It is a multi-grain, multi-legume pancake made from a special flour called 'thalipeeth bhajani'. Most Maharashtrian households will have bhajani in their pantries at all times and with good reason - thalipeeth is very easy to make once you have the bhajani and it is one of the most nutritious things you can dish out in a hurry.

The bhajani recipe varies from family to family. The following recipe is just a guideline - feel free to vary the grains/legumes (and the quantities) as per availability.

Thalipeeth Bhajani


Bajra/pearl millet – 1 cup
Jowar/ Sorghum – 1 cup
Rice – ¾ cup
Wheat - ½ cup
Chana dal/Bengal gram – ½ cup
Urad dal/ Black gram – ½ cup
Moong dal/ Green bean – ½ cup
Coriander seeds – ¼ cup
Cumin seeds – 1/8 cup
Dry red chillies – ¼ cup, or to taste

Dry roast all the ingredients separately. Allow to cool. Grind them all together to a fine flour.

(normally, the grain – pulses mixture is ground in a flour mill. However, my friend grinds them at home in a spice grinder. It is a time consuming process and if you choose to do the same, do sieve the bhajani a couple of times and grind the gritty pieces again).

If roasting -grinding is too cumbersome, you could also buy the flours separately (in the same ratio as that of the grains), lightly roast them and mix them together to make a hassle-free bhajani.

The bhajani can last for months; if the weather in your part of the world tends to be hot and humid, pack it in small quantities in re-sealable bags/air tight containers and store in the fridge.

Once you have the bhajani, you can whip up thalipeeth in a jiffy!



Bhajani – 1 cup
Onion – 1 small, very finely minced
Coriander leaved – ¼ cup, finely chopped
Chillies – 4, chopped
Jaggery – 1.5 tsps, grated
Water for kneading the dough


Mix together the onions, coriander leaves, chillies, jiggery and salt till the onions start to release some water. Set aside for 5 minutes and mix again. This helps all the ingredients to release their flavours.

Then add the bhajani to the above mixture and mix it in, you should get a mixture that resembles wet sand.

Keep adding water to it till you get a soft ball of dough.

Oil and heat a frying pan – it should be hot enough so that when you sprinkle a few drops of water on it, they should sizzle.

Take a small ball of dough, roughly the size of a golf ball, and flatten it to get a circle about 5” in diameter (I normally do this on a parchment paper, my mom does it straight on the pan) and place it on the pan.

Make a small circle in the centre with the back of a spoon. Drizzle some oil around the edges and in the centre, cover with the lid and let it cook for about 2-3 mins or until the underside is brown.

Flip it over and cook till small, brown spots appear.

Thalipeeth has to be served hot off the pan - a cold thalipeeth is an absolute no-no - preferably with a blob of butter melting over it. I serve it with some spiced yogurt and a salad on the side for a light and healthy lunch/dinner.

I am hosting MLLA - 36 this month and the multi-grain, multi-legume thalipeeth is my entry to the event.


  1. Wow - loved your write up about your parents. You should take up writing seriously as you are very good. The recipe is great too. Very new for me.

  2. Looks very interesting...never heard of this and looks like a filling roti

  3. Read the whole write up not knowing much about u or ur blog.
    Now i need to explore your blog more for your wonderful writing and of course your recipes.
    First time here.Lovely space.
    yummy thalipeeth!!

  4. Yummy. This is new to me and delicious :)

  5. You know, some of this could be my parents' story - my dad is an avid photographer and my mom charges him with photographing everything but us kids! Thanks for the entry, Aqua, it's a really heartwarming read.

  6. wow this is new to me!!!!
    healthy and tasty treat :)

  7. wow Aqua, what a beautiful and touching story, I was there with you as if I was seeing the entire scene with my own eyes, amazing writer you are :)

    Love your thalipeeth pictures, never had or made, but heard a lot :)

  8. Lovely story Aqua, enjoyed reading it very much !

    The thalipeeth looks so very inviting, this has been on my list of things to try for a while now. Looking at how yours have turned out is great motivation to make my own:-)

  9. thats a beautiful story and i kinda relate to it in certain ways. you write so well...
    the thalipeeth looks fantastic too.

  10. Wat a touching and lovely story, seriously loved reading ur write up.. Thalipeeth looks wholesome and inviting..

  11. healthy delicious combination looks wonderful

  12. I admire your writing skills and a heartwarming writeup. I could relate to it in many ways from- They used to be such a gentle couple,Dad solving Sudoku etc etc. I also liked when you said you did admit about the camera.
    The Thalipeeth looks delicious and good clicks as well.

  13. Thank you, thank you, thank you all very much. I am absolutely thrilled and overwhelmed beyond words by all your words of appreciation.

    To all those who think this is a true story, it is not. To a large extent fictional, the only real parts are the things my mom makes everytime I visit and the relationship between my grandparents :)

  14. Wowwwwwww.. I love this recipe.. yours looks perfect and tempting.. lovely presentation !!
    Indian Cuisine

  15. Lovely story Aqua. Thought I was reading an account of my parents. It is good to have you back.
    Thalipeeth is my all time favorite comfort food with a dollop of fresh made loni or toop and of course a big bowl of yogurt.
    My mom got the bajini when she came here a few years ago. Since then, I have it only when I go back home. But with your proportions, I might just be able to muster up a bhajani. My mom usually kneads in left over bhaji or varan in it too, and the taste is enhanced so much more.

  16. Lovely read, Aqua, I have the same story to share about my FIL. I feel all Indian men behave and react the same way after their retirement :)
    Have to try the Thalipeeth recipe.

  17. Heartwarming story. And the thalipeeth looks perfect! That takes some skill!

  18. Nice writing and nice space you have here ! Happy to follow !!

  19. Lovely Story Aqua, could picture it as I read. I have not had a Thalipeeth, looks wonderful. The pictures are great.

    Now spin one more story for this month :)

  20. So nicely and lovingly written!
    the recipe is very tempting, too. I had never heard of Bhajani and would love to try it soon!

  21. Lovely blog, finely captures relationships. I liked the part between you and you father. Father- daughter always have a different bonding, remembered my dad too. My mother forcibly packed Thalipeeth bhajani packet when I was packing for London. Thats what I plan to make for Sunday breakfast today.

  22. This is such a warm and beautiful write aqua, enjoyed reading it. Jaya had asked me to read this wonderful post of yours and I realise it is worth every bit.
    Loved the pictures as well. In our house, we call the plain old roti made with rice flour as Thalipeeth. We do not add any other flour to it though.


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